— About The Kai-Cho of Aikido Shugenkai
Jones Sensei's Comment
I didn't want this section here at all! However, others insisted that it should be here. I then offered to write it myself. It would look like:
I wandered into an Aikido dojo quite a while back when I was young and stupid;
As time went by, I became somewhat less young;
Since I was lucky enough to find great teachers, repeated thumps to the head made me (marginally) less stupid I now try to pass on this great gift to others, albeit with less skill at judicious thumping than my teachers had.
Seems good enough to me - but, again, others insisted and you get what comes below. I had to promise to not edit this in any way ... (well, I agreed to "not too much" at least - and so if the following section vanishes at any time, you'll know I slipped with a delete key :-))
Kevin Jones-sensei was born in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. Educated at the Universities of Reading, Oxford, and Manchester he holds a Doctorate in Computer Science. He is, by nature and culture, reserved and private yet he will gladly talk at length about the practice of Aikido.
Early Encounters with Aikido
Jones-sensei's first encounter with Aikido occurred when he wandered into a dojo in Pentre, Wales. This was the Aikikai of Wales headed by Sensei Kenneth Williams. At the time, Jones-sensei was 10 years old. Although he did not have the means to attend regular classes then, he would continue to attend the dojo's promotional classes or an occasional class over the next 6 years. Fascinated by martial arts, during this time he trained in judo, karate, and kung fu. These had the advantage of being affordable but never intrigued him as Aikido had done. At age 16 he was able to take a part-time job which would pay for his mat fees at the dojo and he became a full-time student under Sensei Williams. "Full-time" meant getting up every day at 4 a.m. to complete his job before going to school. Evenings were spent at the dojo 6-7 times a week, often not leaving until 11-12 p.m.
Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido
In 1977, Sensei Williams met with Tohei-sensei and became a member of Ki No Kenkyukai. This style of training allowed Jones-sensei to look at Aikido from a new perspective. His practice under Sensei Williams continued even after he went to university. Weekly private lessons meant driving 200 miles each way for a 3-hour class with Sensei Williams and his assistant. He also volunteered to teach classes at a university Aikido club. Eventually he opened his own dojo in Manchester. During his University days, Jones-sensei practiced in many dojo. He spent about 3 years in an Iwama influenced school, spent some time at the dojo of the Chief Instructor of the Aikikai in Great Britain and spent shorter periods with a number of diverse teachers. This exposure to many different approaches helped to broaden his perspective on the art of Aikido.
Building a Dojo
After practicing in rented space during odd hours in a local Jujutsu school for a while, the dojo determined to establish a permanent location. Initially this was in the upstairs of an abandoned mill - so cold in winter that there was literally ice on the mat. Eventually this site was condemned, the entry boarded up and the electricity turned off - but the club continued to practice there for 6 more months. As one very stalwart member recalls joining the dojo during that time "I couldn't even see what we were doing for the first 6 months!". Eventually, the dojo moved to another site, which they worked diligently to fix up only to have the roof collapse after a week's practice. Thereafter, the club continued practicing in a sports center in Manchester.
Coming to America
When Sensei Williams separated from Ki No Kenkyukai in 1986 to re-establish the Ki Federation, Jones-sensei and his dojo remained with the Ki Society. In October 1989 Jones-sensei moved to the United States and began teaching Aikido classes in a Tae Kwon Do studio in Newark, California. Mission Peak Ki Society was formed as an official branch of Ki No Kenkyukai in February, 1990. Classes in the Tae Kwon Do studio are most remembered for the lack of a mat. After 9 months a mat was obtained as well as a new location in the back of a chiropractor's office. Jones-sensei continued to aim for a permanent dojo and this was achieved in January 1992 when we transformed an ordinary commercial building space into a living, breathing dojo with a permanent mat, changing rooms and an office. More classes were offerred and in January 1995, having outgrown the space, we moved into a larger dojo.
With this move came a new affiliation and a name change. Upon moving to the U.S., Jones-sensei found a large Ki Society organization in place. What he did not find was a teacher. In September 1994, a singular event occurred. Sensei Williams visited the U.S. and gave a seminar in Los Angeles for 4 days. Attending the seminar, Jones-sensei re-established his relationship with Sensei Williams and affiliated his dojo with the Ki Federation. Mission Peak Ki Society became The Ki Aikido Center of Northern California.
After two years of practicing in the larger dojo, circumstances changed. Enrollment had dropped off a bit, and it became necessary to look for a different practice site. The dojo began practicing at the League of Volunteers (LoV) hall in Newark, California. It was obvious from the start that this was a temporary measure, as the smell of cigarette smoke, the large bingo board on the wall, and the somewhat loud "swing" music from one of the other rooms made every practice an adventure. During this time, a private dojo was built in Jones-sensei's home, and the dojo began to hold some practices there. Eventually, it was decided to practice exclusively in the private dojo, and to look for another means of maintaining a public presence. It was decided that the dojo would try to get an Aikido club going at the local university, while continuing to hold some practices at the private dojo. In September of 1999, the Aikido Club at California State University, Hayward, was formed. During this period of time, another significant event took place. For a variety of reasons, Jones-sensei made the decision that the Ki Aikido Center of Northern California would become an independent dojo, with no affiliation to any larger organization.
In September of 2000, a significant event took place: A summer school was held in honor of Jones-sensei's 30 years of Aikido practice and 10 years in the U.S. This became known as the "10/30" and was to be the inception of something special. Shortly thereafter, one of Jones-sensei's senior students moved to Colorado and started a dojo there. Then another student moved to Oregon and began to put a dojo together as well. Seeing this, and realizing that he had students running dojo in England and Saudi Arabia as well, he realized that this group of dojo needed its own identity. The following year, another summer school was held in Sacramento, and it was during this watershed event that Jones-sensei unveiled the teaching structure which now makes Shugenkai Aikido unique, a teaching structure based on the elements of earth, water, air, and fire. It was becoming more and more clear that this extended family of dojo had something special, and needed a new name to go along with its unique style of Aikido practice. In 2002, after much consideration, the group adopted the name, "Shugenkai"
Koretoshi Maruyama Sensei
In 2004, Jones-sensei was able to reconnect with Master Koretoshi Maruyama after many years of being unable to contact him. Jones-sensei is now honored to once again call Maruyama-sensei his teacher.
Moving Back to the UK
In 2010, Jones-sensei moved back to his native UK to continue his professorial work at the University of London. Currently living in Ivybridge near Plymouth, he continues to hone his practice, and the practice of Shugenkai, at the home dojo.
Jones-sensei's dedication and level of practice are inspirational to his students. He seems to have retained the fascination and enthusiasm for his art that he felt so long ago as that small boy wandering into a dojo and he combines that with a sincerity and respect for the budo which he strives to practice in his daily life. Jones-sensei admits that the way he teaches changes day to day, person to person. "People come into the dojo for all kinds of reasons, people stay in the dojo because they want to change themselves, people train for a long time because they see the change happening" Jones-Sensei does not get paid for teaching Aikido, Shugenkai is a non-profit organization. He believes that receiving payment would make it a business and necessarily change his attitude toward the students. He believes he was given a lot as a student and now he can give some of that back, and he has instilled those same values in the hearts of his students who are now running dojo of their own.
Thank you Sensei :-)